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Silicon Valley Employment Law Blog

Employment compensation has to live up to government standards

Numerous California residents probably feel that they are undervalued at work due to the poor level of compensation that they receive. Some of these individuals' employers are meeting government standards when it comes to paying staff, so there is not a lot they can do about it other than request pay raises. Then there are those whose employers are not providing employment compensation that lives up to government standards. When that happens, there is something the affected employees can do about it.

Recently, it was reported that a restaurant in another state was found in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act for failing to keep adequate records of employee hours worked. Restaurant owners were also found to be paying staff well below the federal minimum wage requirement. The employer has since been ordered to pay eight employees back pay to the tune of nearly $80,000.

Was your termination a wrongful termination?

California residents who are doing all that they can at work, only to find themselves fired, have to wonder what exactly went wrong. Employers have the right to terminate employees as they see fit, unless an employment contract is in place, but there are some reasons why they cannot. Those who believe that the following issues contributed to their firings may be entitled to file wrongful termination claims in an effort to seek compensation for their losses.

Reason number one: harassment. Employees have the right to work in an environment free from harassment. They also have the right to report harassment in the workplace to their superiors and expect proper action to be taken. Unfortunately, some victims of harassment have found themselves being let go instead. If it is possible to establish that one was harassed in the workplace and that it contributed to one's firing, a wrongful termination case may be successfully won.

Is an oral contract legally binding?

Written contracts exist so that there is physical proof, a record of what two or more parties agreed to at signing. For example, when starting a new job or modifying one's current position, terms for employment will be set and documented in a written contract. When discussing the contract, though, oral agreements may be made, and those agreements generally become a part of the contract -- even if they are never written down. Are oral contracts legally binding in the state of California?

To be clear, an oral contract is defined as terms agreed upon through spoken communication. There is no formal contract signing. Yes, oral agreements are legally binding in the state of California -- under certain circumstances.

Employment discrimination suit filed against McDonald's

Discrimination in the workplace is very much alive and well today. Laws are in place to protect individuals who have been subjected to employment discrimination, yet aside from asking upper management to step in to fix the issue, many people fail to seek outside assistance with dealing with it. The good news is, California residents and those residing in other states who believe that they are victims of any sort of employment discrimination may be entitled to seek compensation for their losses. An experienced employment law attorney can help with that.

Numerous individuals endure working environments that are hostile, and they should not have to. Some end up leaving their jobs because of such working conditions. A recent case in another state is a good example of this.

Former charter school employee alleges wrongful termination

People depend on their jobs for their livelihood. They trust that the people they work for will conduct themselves professionally, in a manner consistent with basic ethical standards. However, that does not always occur, and some employees may feel that it is their duty to raise an alarm on any situation that seems concerning. If an employer decides to fire an employee for that reason, it may be considered wrongful termination. This is what one former administrative assistant to a charter school here in California alleges happened to her.

The lawsuit filed by the former employee alleges that she was wrongfully terminated for investigating an unlawful grade change. The suit asserts that the executive director of a charter school behaved unethically in several ways, including changing the grades of her own daughter. The suit also claims the director hired her other daughter to teach, despite not being qualified to do so, and paid her a salary that wasn't consistent with salaries of comparable employees. In addition, the plaintiff also alleges that the director had an affair with a vice president of the corporation over the charter school.

For fair compensation, employment classification matters

A recent article was published about the misclassification of employees and how it is costing them fair compensation and benefits packages. When it comes to employment classification, workers in California will fall under one of the following categories: independent contractor, freelancer or employee. What is the difference, and why does it matter?

An independent contractor would be described as a small business owner. A person in this position may be hired by another company to perform a service. The company will pay this individual for his or her time, but it is not required to offer any other benefits.

Discrimination claims filed against UPS

Several workers at a UPS warehouse in another state have filed legal claims against the company for its failure to take action when reports of racial abuse were made. Discrimination in any of its forms is unacceptable in any work environment here in California or elsewhere. All employees have the right to enjoy an employment experience free from harassment and abuse. The accusations made in this particular case are quite disturbing. Anyone experiencing the same thing should know that it is not something that they have to live with.

According to a recently published article, 19 UPS employees of color who work at a distribution center in the Midwest claim that for years they have been subjected to racial abuse in the workplace. The abuse consisted of questionable emails and texts being sent, offhanded comments being made, decorating workstations with monkeys dressed in UPS attire or nooses, and white employees refusing to deliver to predominately black neighborhoods -- among numerous other things. Management at the facility reportedly did nothing to stop the abuse.

Changes made to how Google can handle an employment dispute

Up until recently, Google has used arbitration to handle internal company issues. This practice was required per employee contracts. Just recently, this practice was ended. When an employment dispute arises, Google employees in California and elsewhere now have the ability to turn to litigation for resolution.

The reason Google's arbitration practice was ended is that it was reported that certain male executives accused of sexual harassment were able to leave their jobs with massive exit packages. This revelation caused roughly 20,000 Google employees to walk out on their jobs in protest. Typically, employees are at a disadvantage in the arbitration process, which is held behind closed doors and subject to a ban on making any of the details public.

Company failed to provide adequate employment compensation

A Midwest-based tire company has been found to be in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act by failing to properly pay its employees. Best-One Tire, which has stores in 24 states -- California not included -- reportedly failed to pay over 1,000 employees overtime pay or paid them overtime rates lower than what the law requires. The company now has to pay those wages and make changes to how they will compensate employees going forward. While California residents may not be affected by this particular company, it is still a good read for anyone who believes that their employers are failing to provide adequate employment compensation.

According to a recent report, a two-year investigation into Best-One Tire by the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division found that 1,056 employees were not properly compensated for their overtime work. A total of 835 employees are said to be owed $622,142 in overtime back pay, and another 221 employees are owed $401,666 for overtime back pay and other damages. The company has agreed to pay a total of $1,023,808 to the affected employees.

What should employment contracts cover?

Numerous employers in the state of California utilize contracts when hiring staff. These contracts should lay out exactly what is to be expected from both the employer and employee. Solid employment contracts should be pretty detailed. There is some key information that, if not included in one's contract, one may want to request be added before signing anything.

So, what should an employment contract cover? First, compensation is big and should not be overlooked. Who wants to work for a company that is not clear on how much it will pay? When it comes to compensation, the contract can include information on base salary and bonuses, as well as the terms for a salary increase or possible reduction.

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